Sports Idioms List with Meanings, Examples, & PDFs

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Sports Idioms List

Download the Sports Idioms List & PDF Worksheets

PDF Sports Idioms PDF

View the updated web-version of the sports idioms list in the table below.

The idiom worksheets and games are also free to download.

  • Download and print the PDFs.
  • Use the materials for interactive learning activities in class.
  • Students can also complete the worksheets to review or for self-study.

Sports Idiom Worksheets for ESL Students

PDF Worksheet A: Defining Idioms & Writing Sentences with Idioms

PDF Worksheet B: Reading Idioms in Context & Describing Meanings

Fun Sports Idiom Games for the Classroom

PDF Sports Idioms Crossword

PDF Sports Idioms BINGO

PDF Sports Idioms Checklist (for BINGO)

46 Idioms and Phrases About Sports

*Updated: March 2020

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Idiom / PhraseMeaningExample Sentence
ace in the holea hidden strength or advantageThey'll win the game since their rookie goalkeeper is an ace in the hole.
call the shotsmake the decisionsThe new coach is calling the shots.
chip indonate money or timeWhy don't you chip in and support the refugees?
down to the wireto the endThe game is coming down to the wire and nobody has scored.
front runnerfavorite to winThe stallion is the front runner. He'll be hard to beat.
get a head startstart before othersDon always gets a head start and wakes up at dawn.
get a second windhave new energy after an attemptI was exhausted after 3 kilometres of running, but I got a second wind after I passed the beach.
get into the full swingbe comfortable doing something after some timeIt took her a month to get into the full swing of things. Now she is the best employee.
give it your best shottry your hardestI know the homework is difficult but give it your best shot.
give someone a fair shakegive someone a chanceHe never got a fair shake. He got fired after a week.
give someone a run for their moneytry hard to defeat another personConnor is going to give Floyd a run for his money.
go to bat for someonedefend someoneHis colleague went to bat for her and testified on her behalf.
hat trickthree goals by one playerRonaldo scored several hat tricks last season.
have the upper handhave a better chance of winningThe experienced boxer has the upper hand.
hit a snagface a sudden problemWe've hit a snag. I don't think we can finish it on time now.
hit below the beltdo something that is unfairYou hit me below the belt when you said that lie about me.
hold all the acesexpected to winThe home team holds all the aces. I don't think the other team will win.
hot shot or big shotvery confident or successful personAll the hot shots in New York live on the Upper East Side.
jump the gunbegin too soonIf you jump the gun then you may make a mistake. Go at your own pace.
keep your head above watertry not to fall behindIt's hard to keep your head above water when you are already down by 3 goals.
learn the ropeslearn new thingsI spend the whole morning learning the ropes for the job.
level playing fieldequal chanceThe team leveled the playing field after the penalty kick.
long shotdifficult thing to accomplishIt will be a long shot to finish in the top three positions.
make the cutchosen to be part of a groupI don't think I made the cut. Other people will probably get hired instead.
neck and neckvery closeThe race cars were neck and neck until the end.
no sweatno problemSara said it would be no sweat to finish the assignment on time.
not playing with a full decklower mental abilityGeorge isn't playing with a full deck. He forgot to wear his socks.
not up to parnot good enoughIf you're not up to par by the end of the month, you're fired.
on the ballready and ableI'm on the ball today. I finished everything before lunch.
out in left fieldstrange or unconventionalHis response was so way out in left field that everyone couldn't stop laughing.
out of my leaguenot as good as someone elseShe's way out of my league. There's no way she'll go out with me.
settle a scoreget evenIt's time to settle the score. I'm sick of losing against these guys.
shot in the darkguessIt was a shot in the dark, but her answer was correct.
skate on thin icedo something riskyHe was skating on thin ice when he insulted the boss.
start the ball rollingstart somethingLet's get the ball rolling and start with some ice breakers.
step up to the platetake responsibilityYuna is going to step up to the plate and admit that her team's decision was wrong.
take the bull by the hornsattempt the challengeLet's take the bull by the horse and get started on the project.
take the wind out of my sailsto feel deflatedYou really took the wind out of my sails when you laughed at my new invention.
the ball is in your courtthe decision is up to youWe offered him an extra million dollars. The ball is in his court if he wants to sign the contract.
the home stretchnear the endWe're on the home stretch now. We'll be there in a few minutes.
throw in the towelgive upRocky never threw in the towel during his fighting career.
time outbreakCan we take a time out and work on this later in the afternoon?
to be off basenot making a fair statementMandy was off base when she said that I needed a hair transplant to get the acting role.
under the tableconcealed or by secretWe should keep this under the table until we know it's safe to tell everyone.
win hands downeasy victoryThe team one hands down because their opponents had three red cards.
zero-sum gameeither win or loseIn the playoffs, overtime is a zero-sum game. Only one team can win.

Extra Examples of Sports Idioms in Use

Do you want to read more examples and sentences with sports idioms?

Try entering the expressions in a corpus database or language app.

We highly recommend the following corpus resources and tools:

Watch on YouTube: Sports Idioms English Lesson

View more Idioms and Phrases on ESL Expat

View the complete list of English idioms and phrases.